The Sunday Business Post published an interview with Sean Finlay on the Geo Drilling apprenticeship on the 23rd of August. A link to the interview is available here.
The text of this article is provided below.
Geoscience apprenticeship drills down to opportunity
The two-year Geo Drilling Apprenticeship gives a new generation of drillers the formal qualifications that will help Irish firms to win international tenders.
Most of us go about our daily lives without giving a thought to what the world is made of or what lies beneath the ground we walk on.
But this is something Geoscience Ireland (GI) is very interested in. The business network of 40 companies specialises in the design, construction, and deployment of equipment to drill beneath the surface to discover exactly what the subsurface of the earth around us is made up of. What lies beneath the ground can have major implications for what can take place on the surface.
“We need to understand the nature of the soils, rocks, water and minerals in the earth,” said Sean Finlay, business development director for GI. “These are our natural resources and we need geoscience in order to use them, build on or with them and to protect them.
“A key element in understanding the subsurface is geo drilling, the skilled use of a drill rig to advance holes for subsurface investigation work. And it is used to support critically important sectors of the Irish economy including mining, mineral exploration, quarrying, groundwater research and abstraction, geothermal energy development, site investigation for housing and infrastructure projects and directional drilling for utilities.”
In order to ensure the next generation will have sufficient reserves for the future, it is essential to encourage young people to develop an interest in geoscience; and to this end, an apprenticeship programme was established in 2017 in collaboration with the Irish Mining & Quarrying Society (IMQS) and Institute of Technology Carlow to develop a formal apprenticeship for drillers.
A steering committee drawn from industry, trade unions, Geoscience Ireland, Geological Survey Ireland, Irish Water, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and IMQS worked with Institute of Technology Carlow’s Engineering Faculty to develop the curriculum for a drilling apprenticeship, which was validated in June 2019 and formally launched by Minister Damien English in October 2019. And the first class of 16 apprentices started in January 2020.
“Drilling is a crucial element in geoscience and Ireland has some of the best drillers in the world,” said Finlay, who is chair of the steering committee. “Until now they have had no formal recognition, but the Geo Drilling apprenticeship will remedy that.
“A key GI objective is to assist Irish companies win business in overseas markets. In the past, the absence of a formal qualification for drillers hindered GI member companies in winning international tenders where such qualifications are essential.”
The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship is a two-year programme combining work experience with academic study. Apprentices will be paid while in training and the course is open to existing drillers as well as school leavers with the aim of becoming new entrants into the profession.
“Trainees will work with employers for 41 weeks per year and attend classes four days a week for 11 weeks per year,” said Stephen Walsh, who acts as Industry Liaison for the Geo-Drilling Apprenticeship. “But due to COVID-19, the apprentices commencing on the programme in September 2020 will be completing their academic training through online lectures.
“Apprentices will receive practical training in the use of drilling equipment and operating procedures as well as classroom training in drilling equipment & operations, sample retrieval and processing, environmental management & stakeholder engagement, geology, geo-informatics, health & safety and communications.”
The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship provides training and recognition of an important range of activities vital to the development of natural resources and infrastructure. It enables successful apprenticeships to advance to further third level qualifications.
But it is also beneficial to employers.
“The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship provides a formal recognition of skills obtained by experienced drillers and enables employers to show independent verification of its employees skills,” said Finlay. “It also provides a new entrant with a combination of college-based and on-the-job training, along with a validated career path.
“And the July jobs stimulus measures announced last month by Government include supports for apprenticeship employers who take on apprentices on all national apprenticeship programmes. So employers will be eligible for a €3,000 payment for each new apprentice who is registered between the period between March 1 and December 31, 2020. A sum of €2,000 per apprentice is payable at the point of registration. A further €1,000 is payable in 2021 for each apprentice retained on their apprenticeship.
“Investing in employees is key to companies retaining their staff, as the labour market is competitive for individuals with niche skills.”
Stephen Walsh would encourage anyone who is interested in this career path, to find out some more information.
“The first step would be to do some research into the drilling profession,” he advised. “Drilling encompasses a wide range of activities in diverse settings, so it is therefore important for new entrants into the profession to know what area in which they would like to start their career.”
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The course brochure can be found at apprenticeship.ie/en/apprentice/Pages/Geo-Driller.aspx